History of the Rolex Explorer
As you might imagine with a name like Rolex Explorer, this watch has extraordinary expedition written
all over it. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer was first introduced in 1953 to commemorate the Mount
Everest climb by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who in fact wore Rolex Oyster Perpetual
watches during their journey.
The Rolex Explorer Reference 6350 was the first Explorer to be introduced. This watch featured a 36mm
Oystersteel case, acrylic crystal, smooth bezel, and Oyster bracelet. It was made with a black dial and 3,
6, and 9 marker numbers. Some Rolex Explorer Reference 6350 watches even featured a unique
honeycomb texture dial. This watch had radium material to luminate the indices and Mercedes hands.
At the same time of the Reference 6350, Rolex also created the Reference 6150. The Reference 6150
was like the Reference 6350 watch but didn’t have chronometer regulated specs. This watch featured
“Precision” on the dial.
Less than 10 years later, Rolex introduced a new Rolex Explorer, Reference 6610. This new watch model
featured an in-house calibre 1030 movement with a structure that was much flatter than prior
movements, therefore the bubble caseback of prior Rolex watches was no longer necessary. This was
also the first Rolex to feature red font on its dial, which made it a coveted timepiece for Rolex collectors
near and far. This Rolex was produced from 1959 to 1963.
The next Rolex Explorer to be introduced was the Reference 1016. This Rolex Explorer watch model was
the longest running production model in the Rolex Explorer catalog and due to its classic timeless
design, it’s no wonder. Throughout the years of production, the Rolex Explorer Reference 1016 changed
certain features and offered different versions. The Reference 1016 featured radium and tritium
luminous dials, glossy and matte black dials, and watches with or without the hacking seconds function.
Throughout these changes, the Rolex Explorer Reference 1016 remained a popular choice amongst
In 1989 the Rolex Explorer Reference 1016 was discontinued, and the Reference 14270 took its place.
The new model was created with a larger Oyster case, exquisite Oyster bracelet, glossy black dial, and
18k white gold indices. The Reference 14270 also has a synthetic sapphire crystal and calibre 3000
movement. This version of the Rolex Explorer showed a progression to a more stylish model as opposed
to its more rugged earlier models.
In 2001, the brand released a new Rolex Explorer model, the Reference 114270. The overall appearance
remained largely the same when compared to the Reference 14270. The changes that were made to the
newer Rolex Explorer included a thicker case and new movement, the Rolex Calibre 3130.
Modern Day Rolex Explorer Watches
The newer Rolex Explorer watch was introduced in 2010 and named the Reference 214270. This Rolex
Explorer featured noticeably visible changes from prior Explorer versions. Some of the updates included
a new 39mm case, broader dial, and hands that appeared to be shorter due to the larger size of the case
and dial. To respond to comments that the hands appeared too short, Rolex introduced the Reference
214270 Mark II version in 2016 that had longer hands. The Mark II dial also had a lume on the 3,6, and 9
The Reference 214270 has a Rolex Calibre 3132 movement which was an upgrade from the prior Rolex
Explorer’s 3130 movement. In 2015, another upgrade was made to the movement where a new
standard in timing precision to Rolex chronometers occurred. The change equated with a -2/+2
designation as opposed to the COSC specification of -4/+6 per day.
History of the Rolex Explorer II
The Rolex brand introduced another version of the Rolex Explorer in 1971, the Rolex Explorer II. The first
Rolex Explorer II watch was the Reference 1655. This watch featured a larger case which was a 39mm
Oystersteel case. It also had an Oyster bracelet, fixed 24-hour bezel, date, 24-hour complication, and
orange center hour hand. The Rolex Explorer II Reference 1655 contained a Rolex calibre 1575, which
was also used in the Rolex GMT-Master watches being produced during that time.
The Reference 1655 was referred to as “Il Freccione” meaning arrow in Italian and the “Steve McQueen”
model. Although it was called the Steve McQueen Rolex, the actor wasn’t seen wearing this model as he
seemed to prefer the Rolex Submariner. Additional features of this watch included lumed white hands
with black bases and matte black dial.
The next Rolex Explorer II to be released was the Reference 16550. This updated Rolex Explorer II
version was introduced in 1985 and featured a 40mm case with sapphire crystal, new bezel design,
calibre 3085 movement, and a choice of a white or black dial, both of which had applied white gold
indices. This watch also included a thin red AM/PM hand in the middle. Collectors of the Rolex Explorer
II Reference 16550 today often find that the ones with the white dials now look a bit ivory in color tone
due to the patina transformation that occurred over time.
In 1989 the Rolex Explorer II Reference 16570 was released. This is the longest-running Explorer II model
and when you see all the wonderful features, you’ll easily understand why. The Reference 16570 has
many of the features of its predecessors. Some of the changes include an updated calibre, which
changed from a calibre 3085 to a calibre 3185 movement. Throughout its 22 years of production, the
Reference 16570 drew a loyal following who adored the clean lines, classic style, and extraordinary
craftsmanship. During the years of its production, the luminous material changed from a tritium to a
LumiNova to a Super-LumiNova. The later years of this watch’s production saw a new movement
emerge, the calibre 3186.
On the 40 th anniversary of the Rolex Explorer II in 2011, Rolex gave the model a complete overhaul and
introduced the Rolex Explorer II Reference 216570. The Reference 216570 has a 42mm case, larger lugs
and crown guards, oversized indices and Mercedes hands, and an orange GMT hand in the center.
Now that you know all about the Rolex Explorer and Rolex Explorer II watches, you’re probably ready to
peruse the selection. Let TheWristWatcherInc.com help you find the perfect Rolex Explorer or Rolex
Explorer II to add to your watch collection.